Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Category: Articles (page 1 of 59)

Achievement is a Moving Benchmark

Originally published as feature article in February 2015 issue of student newsletter at my dojo, University Karate Center. Then published on CUInsight.com

Training in martial arts isn’t easy. Same with any other sport or activity. Beginners think, “wow, everyone is so far ahead of me…how could I ever do that?”

As a reader of this blog, you gain valuable insight into my secret life…a martial arts student and instructor. I’ve trained for, let’s just say, a while.

Progress in Life & Training

During my time at the karate school, many students have come through the dojo. Some still train today. Others moved on to different phases (and places) in their life. Most thrilling is welcoming past students back after extended absences due to school, work, or family.

In all of these scenarios, there is a continual challenge of improvement. What do I mean? Well, when you’re doing a thing for a while, you are immersed in it. You gain skills at a nice rate. It feels good.

But then you stop for a long period. “No problem,” you think. “I’ll just get back in the swing of things; I know this stuff!” Except, we all know it’s harder than that.

What you remember as simple isn’t quite so anymore. But you’re committed! You train hard and help regain your previous skills, perhaps even with a deeper understanding. Good for you!

Sure, these are the seeds of a longer discussion, but today I want to focus on what I call the moving benchmark.

As You Improve, So Do Others

The benchmark challenge emerges for individuals both new and long-term.

One recent karateka, as students of martial arts are referred, asked a great question a few months into their training:

“Sensei, how can I become as skilled as the high ranking instructors here? Every time I gain a new insight, they show me another way in which I’m just a beginner.”

Sound familiar? Hint: This isn’t solely about karate.

As you get better, at anything, and you are (really!), those with more experience are as well. You are working towards a moving benchmark. While you train and learn, your teachers get better, too.

Avid readers know what happens now. It’s time to relate to credit unions!

Improvements & Your Credit Union

Paper Notebook with Graph and ChartThat’s a mighty fine marketing strategy you’ve got there. As is your website; the team should be proud. And your member referral program is stellar!

Of course, yours is not the only credit union working on making each area better. Another looks to the same improvements, yet has an additional 25 years upon which to build.

As we tell our students at our dojo:

“It’s not about how long it took to finally start training. You started. And you’re here now. That’s what matters.”

Emulate the Experts

Even Olympic champions look up to someone. It’s how we all work together to improve.

Don’t be discouraged if the expert looks like an expert. That’s literally the point!

Continuous Growth

Embrace our karate school ideals of continuous growth and replicate what works.

We also encourage learning from those both junior and senior to you. Just because they’re a white belt doesn’t mean a Black Belt can’t learn from them!

Finance Flowchart with Laptop on DeskFor you, that means looking to your competition, whether that’s a fellow credit union or regional/national banks. Then remember you’re not competing with credit unions! You can all learn together!

In the martial arts, we use the opponent’s strength to our own advantage.

While sweeping your competition onto the mat may be an untenable act, observe their “movements” (actions, strategies, etc.) and discuss internally how a similar approach might work within your own institution.

The road to Black Belt is a long and challenging one. Also, it never ends. Who says it’s any different for credit union success?

Serving Credit Union Members Best – Auto Loans (Part 3)

Welcome to Part 3 of what became the Unseen Credit Union Competition series. The first part highlighted what members receive in the mail from not-to-your-standards protection services. Did they know you could help them more effectively, at a lower cost?

Then we saw “A Credit Union Member Walks Into a Car Dealership…” This revealed the necessity of positive, mutually-beneficial relationships with car dealers. It also raised the question of what your CU offers alongside that loan. You may know. Do your members?

This post continues right from where we left off, finishing the buying process. We’ll look at how your credit union compares on the “easy scale” for loan closing, protection offerings, funding, and more. Remember, it’s always about getting the member what they really need…easily!

Be Confident! Credit Unions Can Compete.

Women at Table Laughing
What do you mean that’s not you and your dealer partners?

What’s your loan team’s relationship with auto dealers? In the previous post, we saw the range from best buddies to mortal enemies, with everything in-between.

Unless you are able to meet all your lending goals through tent sales, you’re going to need to work with dealers. That doesn’t mean you have to be a pushover!

Explain to your dealer partners how members sent there may receive information about your ancillary services and financing. If the member wants to learn about dealer offerings, that’s their choice.

Some members will just do everything at the dealer. Perfect for your indirect program, if you have one.

Others will want to do it all on their phone before ever visiting the dealer. And stopping at a branch? Fat chance! Thus, how can you help accommodate this scenario? Does your technology allow it?

Credit Unions Can Sell. Really!

It shouldn’t matter how members choose to conduct their car search, financing research, and buying process. You simply need to provide the tools to make it easy.

Talking Through Can and String
An unlikely, though fun, communication medium.

Which leads us right into talking about your products! Ok, maybe not talking, but some form of member interaction, whether chat, clean website/app, or something else. It’s for them as much as for you!

This is where you guide members through what you can offer. Explain why each matters to them (Big Data comes in handy here) and how you are helping reduce their risk, expenses, while preserving peace of mind.

It sounds like selling. Maybe you’re not about selling to members. Then let’s change the word: Helping. Would you be willing to help your members choose what services make the most sense for their situation?

Since you’re not always doing it in-person, yes, that means some pretty awesome site and mobile app design. You can do it!

I was “sold” GAP by my credit union like this:

“Ok, so your loan is approved. Do you want GAP? It can pay the difference between your loan and insurance payout in the event of your vehicle being totaled. It’ll be $$ more per month.”

I declined. Shocked?

I’m Just Browsing

If you’re at a store and someone asks if you need help, what do you say? “No thanks. I’m just browsing.”

In this case, I’m just browsing the ancillary services. If you present them as I expect, ie. selling, I won’t be interested. Yet maybe it’s actually perfect for me!

Ask on Iron Swinging Sign

Presenting your services with a product description and cost isn’t appealing to anyone. It’s about asking the right questions, then offering what makes sense in the right way for that member.

I’m not going into selling here (we’ve talked about that many times in the past). Ok, maybe I am. Again, because it’s so important! Let me repeat: Selling is helping. And you are helping, right?

  • Your car buying service helps save members time and money. Explaining its benefits and how to best take advantage isn’t selling.
  • GAP helps a member avoid thousands in unexpected costs after an insurance settlement. Sharing the exact “GAP curve” that member experiences isn’t selling.
  • VSCs are expensive up-front, but how might a surprise $2000 repair affect your member, their job, family, and financial stability? VSC helps your members keep their car on the road (and reduces repossessions, which are often caused by unaffordable vehicle repairs). HIghlighting this isn’t selling.

Your Member Walked Into A Dealership…

Menu with Food and Dealer Offering
That looks appetizing…

The dealer your member visits will present all of these services. You know they’ll be more expensive, and who knows if they are even the best fit?

But if it’s the first time your member hears about them, that’s a huge opportunity missed for your credit union.

And it’s a disservice to your member.

On the other end, it’s important the credit union recognize the partner status of the dealers. They have the “cool” part of auto loans. Just because you need them doesn’t mean they have to hold all the cards.

Shaking Hands Partners Chalk

Creating a beneficial relationship for all parties means the experience is better for your members (and the credit union, too!).

Then there’s the question of “selling”. There are two extremes. We covered one in the first part: Companies trying to sell your members questionable products they may or may not even need.

The other extreme is not mentioning anything to a member. You probably fall somewhere in the middle, and that’s a great place to start.

Now, it’s up to you to make sure you provide the best everything for a member. And ensure it’s clear and easy for them!

Because isn’t “serving members the best” what your credit union is all about?

“A Credit Union Member Walks Into A Car Dealership…” (Part 2)

This is a continuation of “Unseen Credit Union Competition“. Last time, you saw what members receive after buying a car or home. Now, we rewind to the buying process itself.

Car Dealers & Credit Unions: A Necessary Alliance

In my business, I work with a wide variety of credit unions. Small to large, urban and rural, with everything in-between. What do they all share? A relationship with local auto dealers.

The degree of this arrangement varies from:

“We send to you, you send to us.”

to

“The dealer holds all the cards and we do what they ask.”

Depending on whether the credit union engages in indirect lending or even cares about direct (and if you’re reading this, I bet you do) says a lot about where they fall on that scale.

Your Members Just Want a Car

Forest Road Speed Blur

Let’s be real. Your members don’t care about back-end relationships. Remember, their focus is on the car. A low loan rate, convenience in application, and speed of closing are what they want.

Why? Because that means car shopping can end faster and car driving can start sooner.

Take a quick poll of your office or members in the lobby right now. Ask them who loves the car buying process. Did any respond like this?

“Yes, we get to do it again! I can’t wait!”

It’s exciting to get a new car. Buying one, though? Not what most would call “fun”. As their credit union, you can help members save time, money, and potential future frustration.

Dealers Sell

The first part of this series, Unseen Credit Union Competition, looked at the slimy tactics of aftermarket firms aiming to sell your members (and anyone who buys a car or home) questionable protection products.

It’s important you make members aware of these efforts. Not only is it the right thing to do, but if something goes wrong, where do you think they’ll go to complain?

Shopping Cart
My car’s dealership had a little shopping cart on the F&I desk.

Auto dealers don’t get involved in this stuff. They simply present their product offerings at time of purchase. Of course, some of this overlaps with your own lineup. But theirs is obviously better, since it’s connected to the manufacturer…or something.

What? It’s not? Oh, and it’s often the same thing you offer, just more expensive?

Given that knowledge, I’m sure your team makes a point to explain this to every member, right?

Of course, maintaining a strong relationship with your local dealers is important. Frustrate them and they’ll stop accepting your drafts, inconvenience your members, and not send indirect loans your way.

Some might even complain to customers about your apparent unwillingness to pay them! (I’ve heard this happen more than once)

You’re in this together; surely, this town is big enough for the both of us!

Equip Members With Great Info

Your mission is to serve your members. And that means arming them with helpful information before they walk in to the dealership. What does that look like?

Lay out what you can offer a member buying a car. Here are some common possibilities:

Clipboard Checklist with Pen
  • Loan (duh)
  • Simplified search and shopping process (By referring to your car buying service)
  • Preferred and/or upfront pricing (Through a dealer group arrangement or car buying service)
  • Rate discount (Combination of services, auto-pay, promotion with partner platform, etc.)
  • Fast and accessible-anywhere application, approval, and funding process
  • GAP
  • VSC
  • Depreciation Protection Coverage
  • Debt Cancellation Insurance
  • Credit Life/Disability Insurance

Anything else? Yes, this is me asking you. Because who knows your credit union best? Hint, it’s not me.

Now we have a detailed list of everything your credit union can provide a member looking for a car. This is your “value proposition”. Look back again. These are the reasons why you are in the auto lending market.

Do each of those items feel like the best possible options for your members? If not, it’s time to re-evaluate. (Disclosure: My company’s Learning Library is full of unbiased info to help!)

Pizza Closeup

Here’s a tasty thought exercise: Assuming both are equally accessible in every way, would you eat at the best pizza place in town, or the 2nd best?

To ensure continued survival and growth, you have to be the best choice for members.

For brevity and with respect for your time, I’m splitting this post into two parts. What did we learn today?

  1. Credit unions and car dealers must work together for the benefit of members
  2. Your members don’t care about what happens in the background. They want a car. Easily.
  3. Dealers offer a lot of the same products as your credit union for a lot more money. Ensuring your members know you can help at a lower cost (assuming the programs are otherwise equal) is essential for your growth.
  4. There’s a Learning Library with a lot of helpful resources for your due diligence (shameless plug!)
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